SOUTHINGTON — A local business owner denied a grant to develop industrial land said he’s targeted because of his son’s political affiliation, while town leaders cite the business’ ongoing zoning violations as reason for the rejection.
Kurt Holyst, an owner of HQ Dumpsters & Recycling, plans to buy 22 acres between Curtiss Street and Lazy Lane to build an industrial subdivision designed to bring businesses to the area. He’s the father of Jack Perry, a Democratic town councilor and also an owner of HQ Dumpsters.
Republicans hold the majority on the Town Council.
Holyst was hoping for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant of around $500,000. Town officials had also considered spending $100,000 on it as well.
Holyst said it was a good plan that would have brought taxpaying businesses to town and put land to productive use.
“But for political reasons, this was shot down. Because the individuals who have a majority here didn’t want to see it go through because of who the owner was,” Holyst said during Monday’s council meeting.
Michael DelSanto, a Republican councilor and economic strike committee chairman, said Holyst’s trash hauling business has unaddressed violations. DelSanto, a former Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, said planners won’t even consider an application from someone who has active violations. Recommending the grant and possibly town money for the industrial subdivision project when Holyst’s business has violations wasn’t palatable to Republican leaders, DelSanto said.
“These aren’t just violations. They’re violations that have been kicking around for a year, where he’s ignored town staff, ignored the town attorney,” DelSanto said. “If Mr. Holyst had his affairs in order and he didn’t have violations, we definitely would have recommended he apply for the STEAP grant… How can I justify supporting this when he has violations on other properties in town?” Initial support
In July, the town’s economic development subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of applying for the STEAP grant with Holyst. Perry, a member of the subcommittee, abstained from the vote.
To qualify for the grant, DelSanto said the project had to be “shovel ready” and that there was a deadline of Aug. 15. He brought the proposal to Republican council leaders and suggested a special council meeting for a vote to make the deadline.
That’s when DelSanto and Victoria Triano, town council chairwoman and a Republican, said they found out about the violations from town planning staff.
“It had nothing to do with politics. It was purely (the violations), we just couldn’t do it,” Triano said. “He needs to get those fixed.”
With no recommendation from town leaders supporting Holyst’s proposal for the state grant, DelSanto said the deadline passed and the grant lapsed.
DelSanto was enthusiastic about the idea of an industrial subdivision and disappointed when he learned about the violations. He agreed with Republican leaders that the town couldn’t give money and apply for a state grant with a business owner with open violations.
“I was disappointed but completely understood,” DelSanto said. “We did not want to get ourselves in a situation where we’re rewarding a business in town with zoning violations.” Triano Drive
On Tuesday, the day after the council meeting, Holyst said the violations were minor and reiterated his belief that his family is being targeted due to Perry’s council role and his political party. Perry, a Democrat in his first term on the council, has clashed with Republicans over a host of issues during meetings.
Both violations relate to HQ’s Triano Drive transfer station. One of the violations, Holyst said, is some damage to town-mandated screening trees and shrubs on a berm. The berm and plantings shield neighbors from the hauler’s operations. He said he’s since replanted the screening but hasn’t had anyone from the town come back out to verify it.
Another issue was the filling in of a wetlands area during expansion work at HQ. Holyst said he’s willing to excavate the area or create an even larger wetlands area in compensation but hasn’t yet come to a decision with his engineer and town planners.
“One’s taken care of, one’s in the midst of doing it,” he said of the violations. “I’ve never hid from anything.”
Perry owns the trash hauling business along with his father but said he stays out of aspects that would bring him into contact with town officials.
“I don’t want town staff ever looking at me and thinking they have to do something because I’m an elected official,” he said.
Perry said he and his father had walked the Curtiss Street property two years ago but he didn’t hear anything more about Holyst buying it until the morning of the economic strike committee meeting. He said Holyst keeps him ignorant of town-related dealings intentionally to avoid conflicts.
That hasn’t kept HQ Dumpsters out of the public eye, however.
“Because I’m a Democrat on the council, my father suffers,” Perry said.
He said he wasn’t aware of any town violations, adding others in the company handle that side of the business.Curtiss Street land
Lou Perillo, the town’s economic development coordinator, said an earlier Curtiss Street proposal was derailed by skyrocketing construction costs.
Richard Munson, a local property owner, had proposed an industrial subdivision for the property and got planning commission approval in November. But Munson never continued with the steps necessary for building roads and other infrastructure needed for a subdivision.
“The price of diesel literally doubled from when he started to when he submitted it to zoning,” Perillo said. “The price of asphalt went astronomical.”
Another industrial subdivision on West Queen Street also fell through for the same reason, according to Perillo.
Mark Lovley, a local home builder, attempted to rezone the land for a residential subdivision in 2020 but didn’t get town planning approval.
A developer like Munson will build the infrastructure for the subdivision and attract businesses to fill the individual lots.
When Munson backed out, Perillo said Holyst suggested he take over the project and apply for the state grant.
Despite missing out on the grant, Holyst said he’ll still buy the property since he committed to doing so. Members of the Delahunty family own the land.
Holyst expects to have businesses such as landscapers, but said he could have gotten larger tenants who would have paid more taxes if there was more town support.